Wittgenstein and Hayek

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My Cousin, Ludwig Wittgenstein — a lovely memoir (see family tree below). The first extract below (The New Yorker) reminded me of the Percy legacy (second extract).

Wittgenstein, once asked a pupil if he had ever had any tragedies in his life. The pupil, evidently well trained, inquired what he meant by “tragedy.” “I mean suicides, madness, or quarrels,” replied Ludwig, three of whose four brothers committed suicide, two of them (Rudi and Hans) in their early twenties, and the third (Kurt) at the age of forty. Ludwig often thought of doing so, as did his surviving brother, Paul.

The southern novelist and philosophical essayist Walker Percy (1916–1990) was no stranger to suicide. His family legacy included a long line of ancestors who had taken their own lives, including Percy’s grandfather John Walker Percy in 1917, and his father Leroy Pratt Percy in 1929. In his later years Percy himself expressed amazement and some pride in having “outlived” almost all of his male ancestors, though he did suffer from an inherited disposition toward melancholy.

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Wittgenstein’s Philosophy and Austrian Economics — a very good piece of scholarship making philosophical connections that are typically ignored by mainstream philosophy — but now externalists are all stripes are beginning to climb on the Austrian bandwagon much to their preconceived ideological chagrin.

There is a tendency by many mainstream academics to view both Austrian economics and Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language as strange interlopers into their respective fields.

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Aside

Can Government Be Self-Organized?

A new co-authored paper by the very versatile Tom Froese.

The model is in agreement with the traditional assumption that collective action is faced by serious problems without centralized hierarchical control, but it also clearly shows that spontaneous cooperation is feasible without it. At least in principle, there is no necessity to assume the existence of a lineage of powerful rulers to explain the origins of Teotihuacan.

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Aside

Swarm and Fuzzy

Stigmergy gets a bit of a mention in Newsweek.

Swarms often work by “stigmergy,” a term coined by French biologist Pierre-Paul Grassé in 1959 to describe termite behavior. He defined it as “the stimulation of workers by the performance they have achieved.” It has come to mean a mark left in the environment. Think of stigmergic marks as road signs: A termite makes a ball of mud laced with pheromones (chemicals that affect behavior through smell) and puts it down. The next mud-ball-making termite that happens along smells the first, makes its own ball and adds it to the pile. Millions of balls later, a hollow mud spire stands 8 feet tall, as outlandish as the towers of Turkey’s Cappadocia region—a magnificent termite-apartment complex.

Each individual in a swarm acts seemingly at random—scientists term this “stochastic”—yet as a group a swarm is amazingly focused, coherent and logical.

Translating nature to math can be staggeringly difficult.

Check out a preview of Francis Heylighen’s paper for Ted and my forthcoming Human Stigmergy: Theoretical Developments and New Applications, Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics. Springer.

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